Ode to iTunes

8 Mar

I was going to download William Shatner’s version of Pulp’s “Common People” tonight from iTunes, but I got distracted by a Ben Folds EP I stumbled across. Then I read through his playlist. In stark contrast to J. Lo’s one-sentence description (which her publicist probably wrote), Ben Folds wrote this whole big thing about how iTunes has changed the music buying experience, that it hadn’t been exciting for a long time, but now it was again for him.

Chad and I have been having this whole discussion on Rhapsody vs. iTunes. For a while, I thought that Rhapsody was for people who were music experimentalists, who wanted to try out lots of different things, and iTunes was for people who wanted to go online and buy one song.

But tonight, as I was checking out artist playlists (Maroon 5 has a really interesting one–although I think they make only somewhat interesting music), following one record to another, I thought about when I first got into soul music in college. Before Amazon and eBay, it was so hard to track down CDs. I had read that Dusty Springfield was really influenced by Baby Washington, so since I could never find a Baby Washington CD in Boston, I asked at a black record store down the street from where I lived in Portland. They special-ordered the CD for me.

It actually wasn’t a very good CD, but the point of the story is that while I was waiting for that CD to come in, I couldn’t have been more excited. I love tracking down people’s influences. I came to love Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins through the Beatles, and found T-Bone Walker while trying to track down a rockabilly guitar instruction book or tape (a guy at a classical guitar store told me that T-Bone Walker played something like rockabilly. Even then, I knew he was wrong).

Chad always talks about record stores that let you hear a CD before buying, like Waterloo in Austin. iTunes is that for me. And here’s where I get to my point: I like BUYING music. I like owning it. I like knowing that, since royalty fees from sales of actual songs and CDs is pretty straightforward (even for record company accountants who seem capable of screwing up almost anything), the artists are actually going to make money.

Since I’ve signed up with iTunes, I’ve bought EPs by Ben Folds (who knew that he, Ben Kweller, and Ben Lee formed their own little group, the Bens? I wouldn’t have, if it weren’t for iTunes), Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Garden State soundtrack (and for the first time, I like Thievery Corporation), and overall, I’ve rediscovered my love of discovering music. Sure, it’d be nice to listen to whole albums streaming over my computer like Chad does on Rhapsody. But I like iTunes just fine.

And now I just discovered the Bluegrass radio station I can listen to through iTunes! Marvelous!

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